"Vindication of the Rights of Woman" is Published

Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is considered a “trailblazing” work for feminism (Britannica). In the piece, Wollstonecraft addresses womanhood of the middle class and criticizes what was considered a female education at the time. While men receive an education of the mind and body, women are taught to act weak, to dedicate their time to finery and fashion. Neglecting to teach women anything other than how to be attractive on the “marriage market”, will only leave them without profession, without money, and without honor or promise of redemption if they are left or divorced by their husbands. Wollstonecraft believed that women could contribute more to society than just a wife and mother. 

She writes, “I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures ...are only anxious to inspire love, when they ought to cherish a nobler ambition, and by their abilities and virtues exact respect”. The thinking at this time was that women’s obsession with marriage and delicacy was natural, but Wollstonecraft uses her work to demonstrate that this is a result of women’s artificial education. She argues that if men and women are raised with the same aspirations, than the differences between them will/can be considered more natural. She suggests a total education — one that shapes the whole person —  of both sexes. This, she argues, will benefit all of society. 

Although Wollstonecraft’s work was well-received within within her own intellectual circle, the rest of society’s reaction was negative. The ideas expressed in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman were very radical for her time, but would later provide a solid platform for Romantic feminists who worked to improve the lives of women. 

To learn more about the reactions to Wollstonecraft’s work, click here.

To learn more about Romantic Feminism, click here.

To learn more about Mary Wollstonecraft, click here.







Associated Place(s)